Roger Federer powers past Lukas Lacko at French Open
Swiss number two triumphs 6-2, 6-4, 6-2
Roger Federer of Switzerland throws his sweatband into the crowd as he celebrates victory in his men’s singles match against Lukas Lacko of Slovakia on day one of the French Open at Roland Garros, Paris. Photograph: Getty Images
If Roger Federer’s new appellation, “Swiss number two and father of four”, suggests Superman has abandoned his cape and tights for a life of domesticity, Lukas Lacko probably has a different view.
In their only previous match, at the Australian Open three years ago, the Slovakian – who has not won a match on clay in three years – lasted an hour and 24 minutes. On the first day of the French Open he survived two minutes longer.
Federer flew too fast and high for Lacko, six years younger than him at 26 and 84 places adrift in the rankings, to win 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 on the opening day of the Open. It was about as soft a start as he could have wished for.
However, the perfunctory nature of the win raised questions about best-of-five-set matches in early-round mismatches in major championships, debated again in the New York Times on Saturday. The deciding frame against Lacko slid by in 26 minutes and proved little that the first two sets did not.
In a hurry Federer, the world number four (a place behind his compatriot Stanislas Wawrinka), might have been in a hurry anyway. He powered up his serve to 200kph and hit seven aces from 61 attempts.
He also carried his legs to the net 20 times, cutting the exchange short with 16 crisp volleys. This has been and will continue to be a feature of his game in the glowing twilight of an illustrious career.
For the first week, certainly, he will scare this field, as he brings a good deal of form with him and says he feels as strong as he has done in a while. Next up is Argentinian qualifier Diego Sebastian Schwartzman, who beat the Portuguese, Gasto Elias, also in three sets.
Can Federer win a second French title to add to a cabinet heaving with 17 major trophies? Not many think so, including the man he beat.
“He still has moments in the match when he plays really well,” Lacko said, “but also there are a couple of moments when he starts to miss a little or make easy mistakes. The top, top guys can take advantage of this.”
The man himself was not getting carried away. “Rafa [Nadal] is the favourite,” he said, “then Novak [Djokovic] and then the rest. But it doesn’t matter who’s the favourite. We will see in two weeks anyway.” It is the familiar locker-room etiquette mantra.